As Gulmarg becomes a star destination for tourists despite the ongoing unrest, it will now also host a Winter Carnival this year to end the year in style. With the aid of the Army, the carnival is all set to rock the famed ski resorts of Gulmarg on Sunday with music, skiing, photography, gaming, snow sculpture all part of the event.The festival is in addition to the functions being organised by the local hoteliers for tourists on the New Year’s Eve in the ski resort. For the first time in the last two years, Gulmarg is fully sold out with tourists from different parts flocking the ski resort for New Year celebrations.”The Carnival has a plethora of attractions for the tourists such as Snow Scooter, ATV Race, Snowboarding, Sliding and Snowman making competitions, which will be open to locals as well as tourists without any entry fee. Apart from this, there will be a Photography Competition and live performances by local artists and youth from the Chinar 9Jawan Club, Baramulla and Army Bands,” said an Army spokesman.The carnival is aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the people and bringing them closer to the Army. “The event has already created a lot of buzz among the prospective tourists and the local tradesmen who believe that this initiative will not only spread the message of peace and harmony but will also boost the dwindling tourism business at Gulmarg”, said the spokesman.The fledgeling tourism sector has suffered huge losses post-Burhan Wani’s killing that created unrest in the valley last year. Curfews, hartals, stone pelting and encounters have shaken the confidence of the tourists. Post-Burhan Wani killing unrest has cost the hotel industry Rs 1,100 crore.Official data revealed that around three lakh tourists had visited Kashmir between July 2015 and September 2015. The footfall of tourists, however, were reduced to a trickle in the corresponding period of 2016, because of the unrest.Figures reveal around 7.9 lakh tourists visited Kashmir this year. They include over 2.6 lakh Amarnath yatris who visited the cave shrine this year. Last year, 11.27 lakh tourists visited Kashmir — most of them before July 8, when Wani was killed.However, come New Year, and the tourists are making a beeline again to the famed ski resort to bid goodbye to 2017.”Gulmarg is fully packed. All the hotels are 100 per cent booked for two days. Fifty per cent of the people are tourists and the rest are locals. Some of the hotels have organised musical programmes for in-house guests and dinner on New Year’s Eve,” said Mukhtar Ahmad Shah, President J&K Hoteliers Club, Gulmarg.
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<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said there is a need to uphold peace in the Valley for the tourism to return after the last year’s unrest adversely affected the industry. “When there is peace, tourists will come and which will increase employment and there will be development as well. There is no need to advertise Kashmir. The whole world knows that there is no place beautiful than Kashmir. Sometimes the situation deteriorates which has an adverse impact on tourism,” she told reporters here. The Chief Minister was at the famous ski-resort in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district to kick-start a 15-day Snow Carnival. The festival marks the beginning of the adventure tourism activities at the resort, often referred to as skiers paradise. Skating, ice-hockey, snow-boarding, snow sculpture, along with other such activities, will be the key features of the carnival. Mehbooba said the tourists, who stayed away from Kashmir due to the last year’s unrest, have now begun visiting the Valley. “Kashmir is very beautiful. God has bestowed it with everything. But what is needed is to establish peace here,” she said. About Bollywood arriving lately to shoot movies in Kashmir, the Chief Minister said actor-director Imran Khan has shot ‘Sargoshiya’ in the Valley and many other film stars are expected to shoot here and in Pahalgam, just as Salman Khan shot for ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. She expressed hope that heavy snowfall after many years would attract more people towards Kashmir. Mehbooba said the government is trying to improve infrastructure for winter sports to provide more facilities to the people visiting valley for snow. I hope the tourists will become our ambassadors and tell other people that Jammu and Kashmir is peaceful, she said. Referring towards film stars Imran and Javed Jafri, Mehbooba said, “They are here and I want them to persuade the people in the industry to shot their films here.” “People are safer here than most of the places outside because people do not murder here for money. Kashmir is a safe place for women. If there is any place where crime related to women is much less, it is our Kashmir,” she said. Later, the chief minister inaugurated restored heritage Maharaja Palace and the newly-constructed base station at the Gulmarg Gondola which houses many stalls showcasing cultural heritage of Kashmir.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)